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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:16 pm 
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It's been a chore and a half to get this thing working, mainly because of software / operating system compatibility problems (I'm failing to see the hype about Macs for digital imaging seeing as there is so much mutual incompatibility between the different Mac operating systems and processors, and that there is so little support for Mac-compatible applications in some of the high end scanning products).

Anyway, I actually did some scanning for the first time yesterday. Still have to work on my drum mounting technique, as I got some bubbles under the film, and I have to really work on getting the film clean.

Here are three slide film shots that were completely unscannable on my desktop scanner. The 4x5 and the 35mm were on Velvia, the 6x6 was on Provia. On the 4x5 shot of the cathedral, even holding it up to a bright light I can't see any detail in the shadows of the ceiling or in the seats in the foreground, but the scanner got plenty out (actually a lot more than you can see here with my final tonal adjustments, you can clearly see detail through the entire image in an unadjusted scan).

I've also included a 4000 dpi crop of the altar, which is the resolution at which you can see film grain. That is what people regard as the limit of true detail resolution, and it would produce a 320 megapixel file from 4x5 film (it would print at 53x67 inches at 300dpi from a scan like this).

The cathedral is from Boston, one I've shot many times. The mountain scene is from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Mitchell in NC. The 35mm shot is from our backyard over Lake Jeanette, I believe I was using the TS-E 24 on my Rebel G for that one. I'm still not entirely convinced that even a drum scanner makes it worthwhile for me to shoot 35mm slide film. But I may at some point get a pocket-sized Olympus rangefinder, shoot 35mm slide film, get the lab to cut it into strips rather than putting it in slide mounts, and that might be a decent way to get high quality slide film shots with a pocket-sized camera.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:23 pm 
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So when can I send you my slides for scanning? Tell ya what, I'll just throw 'em in my car and drive over....

Congrats, just be excited (and relieved).

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:09 am 
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Mi casa tu casa. We're not going very far, feel free to stop by. That whole parenthood thing keeps us cooped up. Honestly I spend more time shooting with my camera phone than anything else these days...

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:17 am 
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Ok, here's a comparison:

This shot (previously posted) is from my Noblex.

The first scan (actually a different exposure, but close enough) was scanned on my Microtek desktop scanner. The second is from the drum scanner. The crop is at 4000 dpi, which should resolve the film grains. That resolution would make this a roughly 149 megapixel image, which would enlarge to a 2x5 foot panorama (26x63") at 300 dpi.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:05 am 
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Colours are much better in the drum, not to mention the detail.

So what bit depth can you scan to? 16? 24? (per channel)

How big is the drum, can you handle 5x7?

There is an expert pro drummer here in town, maybe I can arrange a private lesson with him....

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:43 am 
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I'm supposing you got the drum scanner second hand. Was it used commercially? I would imagine it would have to be--who else would buy a drum scanner?

Not for me, but for the public at large, what would they have to expect to pay for a drum scanner in good condition? What specs would they be advised to look for in a scanner? Who are the major manufacturers?

What does it cost to have a negative scanned commercially on a drum scanner? What is the payback?

Clearly the results are superior. Both in the tonal range, and the sharpness. I'm guessing that moire is eliminated too because of the fine screen this is capable of.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:31 pm 
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Keith, the drums can handle up to 11x14 inch media. I could put four 4x5 frames or a ton of MF / 35mm on there. I can scan in 12-bits per channel, which obviously gets dumped into a 16-bit space in Photoshop. It's probably enough (even 8-bits is probably enough) because you can make tonal adjustments in the scanning software before the image is acquired, so the actual scanned image shouldn't need much Photoshop work.

Packard, I got it second hand from some sort of graphic design company in Michigan. It cost $2000 and for that price they gave me the scanner, two drums, replacement bulbs for the scanner, a drum mounting station, tons of supplies (wipes and drum cleaner and mounting oil), and a Macintosh G3 workstation with Silverfast 6.0 (which I upgraded to 6.6).

Drum scanners are very hard to find on the used market, and when you find them there are all sorts of difficulties. First, they are very vulnerable during shipping, because they rely on fragile fiberoptics and photomultiplier tubes. Second, buying this big machine sight-unseen can be a problem because getting any kind of service is at best an expensive nuisance and at worst impossible (some brands and models no longer have any support). The company Aztek, which currently manufactures drum scanners, will support Howtek scanners (which they own the rights to) down to the 4500 model, which I own. That said, the Howtek 4500 and 4000 models and some Screen models do show up un E-bay and Craigslist. Aztek also sells refurbished drum scanners for around $5000. Also, the computer end of things can be difficult. Current Macs no longer support SCSI interfaces unless you buy a particular board for the computer, so you're often forced to decide between either a current PC or an old Mac.

There are other expenses too -- drums can be $1000, and with all the supplies like a drum mounting station, mounting and scanning materials, and software (which is extremely expenses unto itself -- $700 for Silverfast up to $3000+ for Aztek's proprietary DPL program).

To get a commercial drum scan is exorbitant. $100-$200 depending on the size of the output file. By contrast you can pay around half that to get a high end flatbed or "virtual" drum scan at some places, which use high end scanners like Imacons, Creos, etc. The payback with the drum scan is you get perfect sharpness, the highest dynamic range, no digital noise, no moire (and therefore no need for anti-aliasing filters), the highest resolution, and the highest color fidelity.

Keith may be able to explain this better than I, but as I understand it the Nyquist frequency for PMT (photomultiplier tube) scanners is far far higher than the spatial frequency of film grain, so moire is impossible.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:09 pm 
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Notwithstanding the fact that I have no application for such a piece of equipment, I would understand the desire to own a top-notch professional grade scanner.

I am wondering though, what application you would have for it. Clearly it is not needed for this website.

And although the scans are of the highest quality, wouldn't you still get a better result making a print directly from the negative/transparency?

I would believe it would be a clear advantage for high end publication printing, such as Architectural Digest, or Cigar Aficionado, or some other high quality magazine.

But where would it come in handy in general use?

I upgraded from Nikon to Hasseblad primarily because the lab I used would number the negatives and prints for easy print ordering. I found that the image quality would allow larger prints, but up to that time I had no use for it. The larger print sales were camera format driven.

But what advantages will the scanner drive?

I'm not criticizing the purchase--just wondering where it fits in the scheme of things.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:57 pm 
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Packard wrote:
And although the scans are of the highest quality, wouldn't you still get a better result making a print directly from the negative/transparency?


Actually... no. In [optical] printing, you have to put your information through a lens. Drum scanners aren't lens based.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:00 pm 
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Keithwms wrote:
Packard wrote:
And although the scans are of the highest quality, wouldn't you still get a better result making a print directly from the negative/transparency?


Actually... no. In [optical] printing, you have to put your information through a lens. Drum scanners aren't lens based.


So the drum scanner is effectively making a contact print of the negative. Then it digitally enlarges it. So the contact scan + digital enlargement is superior to the direct optical enlargement. Do I have that correct?

At some point we will bypass our eyes in image receiving too I guess.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:45 pm 
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Printing through a top notch enlarging lens, especially at a wide aperture (i.e. less diffraction), is probably no more than a 5% loss of resolution (based on things I've read). I'm sure there is loss soemwhere in the drum scanning process, but it's pretty minimal.

Packard, my reason for getting the drum scanner, first and foremost, is because I want to make high quality, top notch prints of photos I've taken of my son. I've got a bunch of truly great photos of him on the Hasselblad (and a couple halfway decent LF ones), and they deserve to be scanned and printed large and well. Spending $50+ to get pro scans just isn't worth it.

And while I'm at it, I have this photography hobby of mine and a lot of film equipment, and I feel like being able to do drum scans will allow me to get the most out of it. I can also use the drum scanner to make enlarged negatives for alternative / contact processes, i.e. scanning MF and 4x5 negatives and printing them at 8x10 or 11x14 (I'd need to find someone who will print on acetate).

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:46 pm 
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Packard wrote:
At some point we will bypass our eyes in image receiving too I guess.


My eyes are horrible (floaters, astigmatism, yaddayadda). Added to that, I've got these glasses which have horrible chromatic aberrations, heavy distortion of straight lines into curves, incomplete field coverage (my peripheral vision, or the vision if I move my eyes too far in any one direction, is outside of the coverage of my lenses).

I'd like a bio-port ala Existenz, coupled with some kind of high end, stereo, low-distortion, high-fidelity, zoomable electronic eye system.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 4:25 pm 
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drpablo wrote:
...Packard, my reason for getting the drum scanner, first and foremost, is because I want to make high quality, top notch prints of photos I've taken of my son...


So why settle for drum scans when you can make holographic images that will completely bring him to life on the page?

See: http://www.seereal.com/en/holography/ho ... nology.php

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:37 pm 
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drpablo wrote:
Printing through a top notch enlarging lens, especially at a wide aperture (i.e. less diffraction), is probably no more than a 5% loss of resolution (based on things I've read).


Indeed the actual MTF losses, when enlarging through a lens, are not too much of a killer, but it does place pretty severe restrictions on what size prints you can make. Also, the kinds of paper that I like to use (matte fiber mostly) tend not to want to lie flat, and when you go to large sizes like 16x20, it really becomes a big deal. Yes there are vacuum easels and all that, but... the first time you do a LF contact print, I swear you may well say to yourself "I shall never enlarge again!" Contact printing is sooo easy.

By drumming a neg/transparency and making a larger [digital] negative for contact printing, you can print to any size. For example, I have thought of doing room-length contact prints. This wouldn't really be possible or convenient with an optical enlarger.

Another thing you can do is drum and then have an LVT made; with this technique I have had high res (>500 dpi) negs made to sizes like 11x14", for contact printing. So then, again, you don't have to enlarge and all ya do is slap some glass over the neg and paper and voila, no problem with paper curl. This technique is also great for Pt/PD, cyano etc...

For colour stuff, I have my favourite slides drummed and then output by lightjet. The output can be almost any size (they print to rolls) and seems better than anything I've seen from inkjet except that there is still no true matte in lightjet.

Packard, the other trick that drums can do, which is quite cool, is that they incorporate a confocal aperture, and people can diddle with that to minimize grain.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:59 pm 
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I can manually set the aperture on my scanner (and actually focus it by looking directly into a little lens on it). I'm not sure how to do it through Silverfast, not sure it's possible. But yeah, I shoot so much with NPZ in medium format that I kind of do want to decrease grain.

The other nice things about digitizing negatives are that 1) you can correct spots and scratches, 2) you can optimize tonal range (ideal for finicky things like Pt/Pd), and 3) you can always re-print it if you melt your negative.

Keith, do you know of places where I can upload files for lightjet prints or acetate prints?

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:23 pm 
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drpablo wrote:
Keith, do you know of places where I can upload files for lightjet prints or acetate prints?


Stubblefield is excellent. They have an ftp server. If you want, I can go look at a proof (they offer those free of charge) before you get your big print done. Be sure to specify lightjet and include your own 1-2" surround in your file, and size for 8 bit 300 dpi, to avoid confusion. I upload the files with the desired size in the name, for example:

Williams_Photo1_300dpi_16x20_matte_Lightjet...

You might mention me in there somewhere in the web form, that I can drop by and check on the proof. Maybe they'll give you a freebie the first time.

I know John Stubblefield, he is the real deal. I have been getting on their case to provide me the profile for their LJ though, which they haven't yet done. But their proofs have been very helpful. Too bad their website is a bit clunky, otherwise their Aztek and LJ would be humming nonstop IMHO.

I can print digital negs for you if you like, but my widest carriage width is ~8.3". And pictorico is sh*t-expensive, by the way. I started to think that pictorico+ink+personal fuss = not worth the savings relative to LVT. But for cyanos etc. inkjet is fine.

If you want the very best quality then get an LVT done at Chicago Albumen. There is aguy there, Oleg, who has been very helpful. He spotted some posterization in a neg that I couldn't possibly have seen. Anyway they can make almost any size LVT... with enlargeable, smaller ones at res beyond 3000 dpi. They just kick the snot out of any inkjet.

P.S. I'd be a bit worried about the gamma on that mac....

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"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people." -Randy Pausch, October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:37 pm 
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Thanks for the info. I've ordered some mounting solution that should make life much less messy and at that point I'm going to start scanning negs and chromes I actually care about, so I may order some lightjet prints then. I think J&W in Raleigh has a lightjet printer, and they're only a 20-30 minute drive from me at work, but on the other hand I never have that much time during the day -- and they don't have a way to upload files.

I'll trade you drum scans for transparency prints once I figure out how to use this damn thing better. That acetate is really expensive. I wonder if it's possible to get some film base (buy some cheap Arista.EDU film from Freestyle and develop it without exposing it) and then print on top of that.

As for the gamma, I've got a pretty nice monitor for it that I calibrated with a Spyder 3 Pro.

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